Playoffs Playoffs Playoffs
In a thrilling Thanksgiving Day victory last week, the Portland Timbers defeated top-seeded Colorado Rapids 1-0 in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal.
Now the Rose City turns their attention to Saturday as the Timbers play host to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Final at Providence Park (3:30pm PT, TICKETS, ESPN). Tickets go on sale on Tuesday at 10am PT. A win against RSL would put Portland into the 2021 MLS Cup on Dec. 11.
The goal that made Timbers fans' Thanksgiving turkey taste even better
Before we get into the incredibly huge upcoming match, let's take a look at back at that Thanksgiving Day win and Larrys Mabiala's 90th minute winner that gave Portland holiday victory.
Timbers and RSL: Playoff Foes
Saturday's Western Conference Final will not be the first time these two teams have met to decide the conference champion or even in the playoffs. In 2013, the Timbers finished the regular season in first place in the West, defeated Seattle in the conference semifinals 5-3 on aggregate and then took on Real Salt Lake in a two-legged affair. Portland lost 4-2 in the first leg and 1-0 at home.
Despite the end to that season's postseason run, 2013 marked a beginning of Portland ascending into one of the conference's top teams. Portland would go on to qualify for seven of the next nine postseasons – including the past five straight – and earn two conference trophies (2015, 2018), the MLS is Back Tournament trophy (2020) and an MLS Cup (2015).
In 2019, the two teams met in a single elimination, Round One playoff match in Sandy, Utah. Despite a second-half thumping header of an equalizer from Dairon Asprilla and a number of close chances for a game-winner, Portland lost the match 2-1.
For 2021, Portland went 3-0-0 against Real Salt Lake in the regular season – including a 6-1 win at Providence Park – and outscored the Claret-and-Cobalt by a 12-4 margin.
Conference Finals in Portland
Portland has also hosted conference finals in 2015 and 2018 – both to memorable effect.
In 2015, the Timbers hosted the first leg against the top-seeded FC Dallas and won 3-1 behind goals from a wondergoal from Asprilla as well as tallies from Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers. They then traveled to Frisco, Texas to draw 2-2 but win 5-2 on aggregate and lift the club's first major hardware of the MLS era.
Thorns announce new head coach Rhian Wilkinson
On the NWSL front, the Thorns FC announced Rhian Wilkinson as the team's new head coach on Monday. Wlikinson, a former Canadian international and Thorns player, comes to the club having most recently been an assistant coach with the England Women's National Team.
“I know that I am inheriting a successful, winning culture on and off the field, and I have immense respect for what everybody at the club has built,” said Wilkinson upon being announced. “This team has a strong foundation with not only top players but great people. For me, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to join this club and organization, and I am looking forward to getting to know Portland again.”
Learn more about her excitement at accepting the new position and her plans for the team:
International Thorns Updates
Thorns forward Morgan Weaver made her international debut for the U.S. Women's National Team last week. Check in to learn more what some of her teammates have been up to on the national team level.
Also of note, Thorns forward Christine Sinclair came in sixth in the 2021 Ballon d'Or voting.